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Covid-19: Free meals row, 'Generation Covid' and Oliviers' message of hope

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Monday morning. We'll have another update for you at 18:00 BST.

1. Meals row rumbles on

The government is continuing to insist it will not bow to pressure, including from some Conservative MPs, to fund free meals for school children in England over half-term. More than 800,000 people have signed a petition, started by footballer Marcus Rashford, calling for provision to continue. Some local councils have promised to supply meal vouchers and, thanks to Rashford, scores of pubs, cafes and restaurants have also offered free food. However, Labour says a postcode lottery means many will lose out. One woman, Danielle, told the BBC what holiday hunger felt like for her as a child.

media captionMarcus Rashford and his mother Melanie helped out at FareShare Greater Manchester

2. 'Generation Covid' bearing the brunt

People aged 16 to 25 are more than twice as likely as older workers to have lost their job during this time BBC Panorama has found. Research seen by the programme also suggests the education gap between privileged and disadvantaged young people has widened further. Elsewhere, a report suggests deserted high streets caused by local lockdowns and home working are taking a toll on the number of job vacancies.

image captionRoberta, aged 16, says it has been a struggle to keep up with her peers from privately educated backgrounds

3. Tests on demand - for a price

People without symptoms who want to get a coronavirus test will now be able to pay for one at Boots stores across the UK. The firm says a nasal swab test which gives results in 24 to 48 hours is being introduced now, and within weeks an even faster test will offer customers results in just 12 minutes. The initial cost will be £120, but Boots says it hopes that price will fall significantly if there is sufficient demand for the service. People with one of three key coronavirus symptoms - a fever, a new continuous cough or a loss of smell or taste - should seek a free NHS test.

image copyrightMATTHEW HOWELL

4. 'Grit our teeth'

Tough new coronavirus measures are being introduced in Italy and Spain. Madrid has declared a national state of emergency and imposed a night-time curfew country-wide. Restrictions have also been imposed on travel between regions. In Italy, bars and restaurants will close for table service at 6pm, and gyms, cinemas and theatres will shut. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the nation he hoped that "by gritting our teeth" for a month "we'll be able to breathe again in December." Case numbers, hospital admissions and deaths have been increasing across Europe - see our global tracker for more.

5. Oliviers' message of hope

It's a hugely difficult time for theatres and others arts venues, but at Sunday night's Olivier Awards, some of the biggest stars of the stage tried to encourage those working in the industry to stay positive. Fleabag's Andrew Scott urged them to "keep the faith" as he accepted his best actor trophy by video link. Another winner, director Marianne Elliott, said the event must remind everyone "what theatre is, what it can do, and how it can touch hearts, minds and souls".

image copyrightITV Studios/Society of London Theatre
image captionAndrew Scott said a sense of humour had helped many in the theatre world get through this period

And don't forget...

Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

Plus, mother-and-baby units provide vital support for new mothers and pregnant women with serious psychological problems. Find out why they are facing unique challenges right now.

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